Friday, April 20, 2012

Rec of the WeeK: The Pretty Reckless "Hit Me Like a Man" EP

Quick Update: On my "P" for "Pretty Reckless" post, which is the only semiprofessional record reviw I've written so far. Getting there, I guess. Oh, and hello new followers E. Regina and Martin A!

Song Stuck In My Head: "Don't Trust Me" by 3oh!3. Remember 3oh!3?

Their fans may be Tumbling teenage girls, but that’s no longer an excuse. THE PRETTY RECKLESS have racked up enough qualifications to make it onto everyone’s playlist. Their pop-tinted grunge debut “Light Me Up” is over with. They’ve toured with Evanescence, Guns N’ Roses, and 30 Seconds to Mars. Cigarette-toting front woman Taylor Momsen is finally legal. And now their second EP, HIT ME LIKE A MAN, is out. TPR are upgrading from a novelty to a force one fan at a time.

From a distance, TPR don’t look their name. Most of the group consists of tough, dark-haired brooders. Then they’re fronted by a young, platinum blonde C lister - model/actress Momsen of Gossip Girl fame. With her smoky eyes, lingerie-esque wardrobe, and occasional tabloid controversy, she’s basically America’s 18-year old crazy sister who ran off with a rock band and who we don’t talk about.

Those who dare to look past the not-so-enticing surface of TPR discover their true merit. Sure, they’re not all fun rave songs, comeback rock heroes, or loveably Indie. Gosh, they don’t even try to hide the bubblegum appeal of their singer, or the clear grunge/70’s influence on them. Why should they?

Nope, TPR are just your average group of misfits who grew up to songs where the singer was a dark yet beloved angel, the lyrics told stories, and the guitar sang the entire song - not just a solo. Misfits who see nothing wrong with the continuing Yesterday’s brand of music. It’s an awkward transition - Vevo’s Ask: Reply video interview with Momsen is enough evidence of that.

But once you hear TPR, it’s a lot easier to look at them. While “Hit Me Like a Man” has only three new tracks, but it’s more than enough.

First the title mix. While “Hit Me Like a Man” the song might not be the most stand-out of TPR’s musical archive, it does have a riff full of enough thrash roots, bass stomping, and pumped up badassery to carry it along. I particularly enjoyed hearing the growth injected into Momsen’s voice, after the two years spent promoting “Light Me Up”.

Don’t go into Hit Me Like a Man expecting controversial lyrics though - despite the title that inspired the EP’s name, it’s about the balance of testosterone and estrogen in a relationship not a statement about abuse. “Hit me like a man…but love me like a woman.” It still does so with spicy, smoldering ‘tude. (However, if you are a fan of the controversial, might I suggest TPR’s “Goin’ Down”, the tale of a girl who kills her cheating beau then confesses and seduces a priest?)

We end with “Cold Blooded”, which tastes like two scoops of bluesy, coffee-house rock with extra throaty vocal syrup. Not quite a ballad, Cold Blooded echoes everything you loved about the twentieth century rock scene in the form of duet between Momsen and guitarist/co-founder Ben Phillips (whose rock n’ roll pipes can only be described as WowzaTheManCanSing).

Not that this is a romantic duet in any way. In fact, I imagine a fuming couple who have no way to actually express their discontent. Instead, they sit on opposite sides of a door, strumming guitars, singing their hurt away. But the splotchy rhythm section of bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins deserve an ovation too - they are, after all, who keep the Blues heavy in this tune.

That said, Cold Blooded could get a tad repetitive after a few listens. And the ending - Momsen and Phillips saying “can’t trust a cold-blooded woman/man” at the same time so their words blend - borders on corny. But in the long run, you’ll remember the atmosphere of this song, not the gimmicks.

In-between the live recordings of previous songs (Light Me Up’s gloomy “Make Me Wanna Die” and hyperactive “Since You’re Gone”) we get “Under the Water”. I knew this was going to be my favorite after I spent about twenty minutes simply replaying the beginning. It’s not just quiet to loud: It’s dead to alive. Young and bruised to matured and recovering.

You don’t even need to read the lyrics. Vocally, the dynamics tell the story with every light-hearted or emotionless syllable. There’s definitely the vibe of a teen girl’s angst-ridden diary throughout this dark, guttural tune. No only does it work, but the youthfulness, the naivety or fall from grace so to speak, keeps it afloat. When Momsen’s warnings of “don’t let the water drag you down” turn to a scream, it’s hard not to care.

Admittedly the guitar and base don’t do great strides, acting more as mellow backdrops than stand-outs. I am however in love with explosive, arena-worthy drumming. Kudos to whoever’s idea it was to throw that in. Minor details, worthy results.

How much will TPR’s next full release be like this? Who knows. With the band about to start a tour with Marilyn Manson, they could take a whole new direction. For now, it’s time for the modern rock genre to give the kids a second glance…don’t let appearances fool you.

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